On a cloudless September morning four years ago, hijackers commandeered two passenger jets and flew them into a showcase of American capitalism. The 110-storey twin towers of Manhattan’s World Trade Center collapsed in less than two hours. The American writer, Lewis Mumford once described those towers as dinosaurs, examples of “the purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism that are eviscerating the living tissue of every great city.” But now, the ugly giants were gone and 2,750 lives with them. On that same sunny morning, hijackers flew a third plane into the Pentagon, showcase of US military might. The death toll there reached 184. A fourth aircraft possibly en route to the White House, Washington’s symbol of political power, crashed in a field southeast of Pittsburgh killing all 40 on board. All in all, the number of dead on 9/11 reached 2,974, but there would be tens of thousands more deaths as Bush and his cronies launched their “War on Terror.” First came the massive bombings of Afghanistan and then, the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Murder, mayhem and torture.
“You are either with us or against us,” Bush proclaimed as he rushed to war. Now that most of the world and his own citizens are increasingly against him, the cowboy president muses about keeping Americans safe by fighting “terrorists” in Iraq. “After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy.” Defend our freedom? Perhaps Bush meant the freedom that tens of thousands of poor people in New Orleans enjoyed after Hurricane Katrina struck last week. Freedom to starve. Freedom to drown. Freedom to be eaten by rats. Freedom to shit wherever they could. After four days of fooling around, Bush acknowledged his administration’s ineptness. “The results are not acceptable,” he said, lamely adding that more National Guards troops were needed to restore order and to distribute food and medicine.
Oh yeah. Bush was facing a hurricane of his own from critics on both the left and the right. “If we can’t respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we’re prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?” asked Republican Newt Gingrich. Lefty writer Michael Parenti contrasted the Bush administration with the Cubans: “When an especially powerful hurricane hit that island last year, the Castro government, abetted by neighbourhood citizen committees and local Communist party cadres, evacuated 1.3 million people, more than 10 percent of the country’s population, with not a single life lost.”
Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton administration official who is now a writer and columnist, pointed out in the German magazine Spiegel Online that since 2001, the Bush administration had slashed New Orleans flood control funding by 44 percent in spite of repeated warnings that a hurricane could devastate the city. “No one can say they didn’t see it coming,” said the New Orleans Times-Picayune, two days after Katrina hit. The newspaper ran a series three years ago warning of the looming disaster. But no one in Washington would listen to local officials who called for federal help to protect the city. Instead, the Bush administration loosened restrictions on the development of wetlands considered crucial for absorbing floodwaters. And Bush refused to sign the Kyoto agreement, a longer-term measure to reduce the global warming that can produce extreme weather, including hurricanes.
The death toll in New Orleans is likely to be several times higher than the number killed on 9/11. Given the reckless ignorance of George Bush, president of the plutocrats, ordinary Americans are justified in wondering who their real enemy is. To paraphrase Walt Kelly, creator of the Pogo comic strip, “We have met the enemy and it is Bush.”
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